Biscuits! Lozo and Down Goes Brown Talk Laine Man Crush, NHL Parity, and All-Star Voting
Dave and Sean swap emails and debate the biggest topics in the NHL in our monthly review.
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The following is from an email exchange between Dave Lozo and Sean McIndoe (Down Goes Brown). Each month they will talk some nonsense and debate the biggest topics in the NHL in our monthly review. You can also check out the Biscuits podcast with Sean and Dave as they discuss the events of the week.
DGB: So when we did our October roundup, the big story in the league was how the young kids were dominating. Since then, we've seen Auston Matthews go through a scoring slump and Dylan Strome sent back to junior. But for the most part, the kids are still running over everyone. Patrik Laine is tied with Sidney Crosby for the league lead in goals, Matthews and Mitch Marner are on pace for 60-plus points in Toronto, and Zach Werenski looks fantastic for the Blue Jackets. So this is officially a thing now, right? Are we witnessing one of the best rookie classes in NHL history?
Lozo: Hang on. Let me turn my hat backward, grab my skateboard, slide on my black-framed glasses that don't have any lenses and... there. Hello, fellow youths that are taking over this sport! A very lit af day to you all, fam! What? No, I'm not a cop. I'm young! Like you! How cool are the Pearl Jam?!
I'm in love with Laine. I want to be friends with him. I want us to be Snapchat buddies. I want to go on Tinder double dates with him. I want to go to the arcade and... I mean, I want to do tandem VR mask adventures with him, because real young people don't go to arcades anymore, daddio! He's so fun and good so what I'm most excited about is how his coaches or teammates or the league itself turns him into a robot.
I'm least excited about the Leafs rookies because Toronto media types like YOU will pit them against each other, turn against Matthews because he's a beautiful American, then there will be stories about trading one of them for a defensemen. Toronto doesn't deserve them. One of those three guys will get Kessel'd and you know it. I bet it's Matthews, who will then win a cup with PK Subban in Nashville.
DGB: Man, I wish I could say you were wrong, but that's absolutely going to happen. But for the record, the early leader is William Nylander, who's already got media in Toronto calling him lazy. He just doesn't work as hard as those Canadian-born players, am I right? (Note: William Nylander was born in Canada.)
But yeah, Laine is great. I wonder what would happen if you hooked Gary Bettman up to a lie detector and asked him how he honestly feels about having his two most marketable young stars in Laine and Connor McDavid stuck in Winnipeg and Edmonton. OK, I know what would happen: the lie detector would start glitching like a Westworld robot as soon as Bettman touched it. But still, the NHL's marketing department can't be thrilled with this, can it?
Lozo: Here's one thing I've learned during my nearly four decades (spoiler: I'm old) on this planet—if the NHL's marketing department is against it, it's probably against something great for the league and its fans. This is the league that saw John Scott fall in its lap last year and proceeded to do everything to force it off its lap over and over until the NHL decided to go with it because it had no choice.
For instance, let's say if you wanted to vote for Bryan Bickell this year, who is battling MS and may be in the midst of his final NHL season because of it. Can you vote for him? Yes. But it's hard because you have to write him in. So if you wanted to vote 10 times for Bickell as a way of doing something—which you should—it's this big hassle to do so. But you should do it because his wife was tweeting out links to get fans to vote for Bickell, so clearly it's OK with Bickell and his family.
Side note: I would have written back sooner but I'm at a bar watching the Giants game and they just gave up a safety and a field goal and are down 5-0, so I was distracted by my rage crying.
DGB: Don't worry, the Giants are in the red zone, I'm sure this will turn out fine.
OK, so the all-star voting thing. I feel like you and I aren't quite on the same page, but we're in the same ballpark. That's a mixed metaphor and doesn't make any sense, but people know what I mean. I get the Bickell idea. I see the appeal. But can we agree that the power rankings for all-star voting options looks something like this?
1. Just voting for good players, the way All-Star Games are supposed to work.
1a. Voting for somebody like Bryan Bickell who isn't really an all-star but deserves some recognition for other reasons.
2. Mindlessly stuffing the ballot-box for the players on your own team.
3. Not voting at all, meaning that the rosters get stacked with players from whichever city is hosting because they're the only fans who care.
58. Printing off paper copies of the ballot at home, then eating them.
1,482. Organizing a campaign to vote for somebody terrible like Shawn Thornton or Steve Ott because you liked the John Scott thing and somehow believe that jokes are just as funny when you re-tell the same ones over and over.
Lozo: Doing another goon or bad player thing would be like the movie Ghostbusters. We nailed the first one. We did it. Let's not do another one involving paintings and a weird kidnapping of a baby by a ghost. It's not going to work. I'm not sure how the new Ghostbusters reboot plays into this analogy but maybe if we try to do it again in 30 years?
Oh look, Eli was picked off and the Giants are down 11-0. Classic Eli move. Play possum for a half, then strike when they're not ready for it.
This may be all the pitchers I've drank in the past 90 minutes but I can't think of too much on-ice stuff that's stood out through two months. The big stories are all-star voting, a fired coach getting a cab and a bungled Vegas nickname unveiling.
The Giants just went three and out so I need to order a new pitcher and some shots.
DGB: Part of the reason that not much is standing out is that we're living in the age of NHL parity. That's not new, and we've been headed in this direction for years, but this season is really shaping up as the year where there's almost nothing to separate the good from the bad.
I had a reader email me on Thursday to ask if I'd looked at the "last 10" column of the standings that day. Heading into that night's action, 27 of 30 teams had won either four, five or six of their last ten. That's ridiculous. You've literally got 90 percent of the league being within a game of breaking even. If you go to the standings page and sort the entire league by points, there aren't any gaps anywhere. As we're writing this on Sunday afternoon, the defending Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals are 10th overall and the rebuilding-from-scratch Maple Leafs are 23rd, and there's four whole points between them.
We're basically a year or two away from a league where all 30 teams are within a few points of each other, everyone finishes over .500, and nobody clinches or is eliminated from the playoffs until the final weekend.
And the NHL would love that! They'd think that was just the most exciting season possible. They've made it clear over the years that they believe that parity is always good, and more parity is always better. And I'm sure some fans agree. But man, it would be nice to feel like we were doing something beyond flipping coins here, wouldn't it?
Lozo: It's bad. You know what's good? The Giants have the Steelers in a third and forever after an offensive pass interference penalty.
What's bad is parity. Let me tell you a thing about me few people know. I fucking hate the fucking Yankees so fucking much. It stems from the late-1990s, when they'd spend and spend and win title after title and it was killing my soul. It was unfair that the team in the biggest market with the most money could spend all they wanted. I needed a salary cap. I demanded a salary cap.
Well, it's 2016, the Yankees have one title in like 15 years and I wish salary caps didn't exist. Parity sucks. It's bad. We need dominant teams in sports. The NBA and NFL have caps but they've found ways to have dominant teams through the forming of super teams (Golden State) and cheating (New England). Hockey is super team-proof and cheating doesn't seem like it could help in hockey the same way.
Oh look, the Giants gave up 18 yards on third down and the Steelers got a field goal before halftime to go up 14-0. Time to see if there are any shot specials at this bar.
DGB: See, whenever the topic of parity comes up, people always point to the NFL. They have parity, the argument goes, and they're the most popular sport in North America by a mile, so there you go. Fans love parity.
But there are different kinds of parity. There's the kind the NFL has, where bad teams can become good teams fairly quickly and everybody who isn't the Browns has at least a shot at winning something when the season starts. Every year, there's a team or two in the NFL that goes from absolutely terrible to pretty good almost overnight. This year you've got the Cowboys going from 4-12 to Super Bowl contender, for example, or the Raiders finally being good again, or the Titans being in the division title mix after finishing tied for last overall. Sure, most of that is because the season is only 16 games long and there's a ton of random noise, but still, it's unpredictable and everyone has at least a little hope. That's fun parity.
But the key is that the NFL still has good teams and bad teams. It's not a league where everyone finishes between 7-9 and 9-7. That would be boring parity. And it's what the NHL seems to be aiming for.
Hating the Yankees is fun. Hating the Patriots is fun. Watching the Warriors try to have the best season ever is fun, and when they lost in the final it really meant something. Watching a league full of average teams finishing with loser point-aided 95 point seasons isn't fun. If anything, the NHL has lucked out recently because at least the Blackhawks and Kings have won multiple Cups, so it feels like they've been dominant even though their regular-season records are pretty unimpressive. But at some point, fans are going to realize that the NHL is heading toward being all about luck and randomness and shrug emoji.
But hey, the Canucks are the worst-run organization in the league and they're two points out of a playoff spot, so... wheeee!
Lozo: Is Dak Prescott the NFL's Connor McDavid? Thanks, I'll pitch that somewhere.
Here's the thing about NHL parity—95 percent of fans don't care. That's because fans are fans of their teams and nothing else, and the current system keeps their bad team in it longer. The NHL is so niche and localized that the newest team named itself Vegas instead of Las Vegas because that's what locals call it. Everyone in New Jersey calls it Jersey but no one is asking the Devils to change the team name. If anything, the newest NHL team shows the league doesn't care about either parity or being too niche.
There's nothing good about the Pacific Division being tight and bad.
Let's focus on something good—like, um, my god I can't think of anything.
DGB: I feel like between this and the podcast, we've spent the last week complaining about how awful the NHL is. And we're not wrong. But yeah, let's end this with something positive.
Here are five things I don't hate about the NHL:
-Brent Burns continues to kick ass
-The Flyers are quietly a lot of fun and sneaking back into the playoff picture
-We're almost to the time of year when teams will have to start making trades
-Connor McDavid exists
-Brent Burns continues to kick ass. Sorry, I couldn't come up with five.
Lozo: I like this. Here are mine:
-Summers off from writing about it
-The Penguins uniforms
-Pucks are cool
-People say "gripping the stick too tight"
-Defensemen trying to fight a guy after pushing him into his own goalie
DGB: There you go. Never let it be said that we don't see the beauty in things.
Lozo: There will be a lockout in a few years. Thanks for reading!